At this time of year hare coursing in the county is one of our major issues. I have met with many local farmers and I am in absolutely no doubt as to the impact that hare coursers have on their quality of life and feeling of safety.
Operation Galileo has been in place for several years. At the start, this reduced the incidents of hare coursing and was rightly hailed a success.
I will no longer be using it as I do not want to detract from our positive message about enforcement activity
However, we noted in 2014/15 that there was an increase in hare coursing despite the deployment once again of a team.
We decided to take a different approach, following consultation with the Strategic Rural Crime Steering Group which is attended by numerous representatives of the farming community.
We continue to have Operation Galileo in place to respond to reports of hare coursing. However, this year, rather than a team of five officers who were expected to respond to incidents throughout the 2,687 square miles of Lincolnshire, the decision was made to equip and skill our local neighbourhood officers in the powers and legislation which relate to hunting with dogs.
In recent weeks 48 people have been arrested or reported for summons and nine vehicles have been seized from people suspected of hare coursing. Seven men were dealt with for hare coursing in Deeping St Nicholas last weekend.
When I have used the phrase ‘Lincolnshire is closed to hare coursers’, this was at the specific suggestion from NFU members (the phrase came from them) who asked me to provide clarity that we are still dealing with hare coursers after the mixed messages earlier in the season following our change in tactics.
I can understand that this phrase must be particularly galling to members of our community who continue to experience incidents.
However, that message, accompanied by details of our enforcement action, was aimed at the wider audience, in an effort to deter hare coursers from visiting Lincolnshire.
The phrase is an aspirational one and does not reflect the current circumstances in some areas. Despite many positive comments about my updates, I have received feedback elsewhere that this phrase is not well received by farmers still suffering from hare coursers, so I will no longer be using it as I do not want to detract from our positive message about enforcement activity.
There is still a lot of work to be done to eradicate hare coursing from our county and I remain determined to tackle this illegal act. Our focus on Operation Galileo is part of that effort.